perjantai 22. marraskuuta 2013

Day 357: Who should I be?


A scenario I sometimes conjure in my mind as an insecure vegetarian.

Because my chronic shoulder pain is one of the major points why my moment-to-moment living is currently “unpleasant” in such a way that makes me want to “unwind” through different means of relaxation (alcohol, socializing, video games, TV, sleeping), I am now focusing on the shoulder point as representing survival systems. Because this pain has arisen during these past 4 months, where I have also had a lot of changes and faced new challenges, the question I'm asking myself is: What survival systems have been activated within myself in my new surroundings and positions?

Whenever a person interacts with the world, the mind activates to ask: what should I do to make the best of this (to survive)? The human mind then searches for cues and clues for a) what one's surroundings are b) who one is in relation to one's surroundings. If there are other people involved, the mind maps out who the others are and who oneself is in relation to them. This process of mapping out one's reality is often twisted so that one's assessments don't have anything to do with what is actually here and what actually happened, but instead focus on what one believes and perceives or imagines to be true.

For example, one might talk with another person and interpret their tone of voice to mean that the other has ill intentions even though his/her words do not directly imply so. This is when one's perception of the reality is believed instead of interacting with the actual reality to find out what actually happened: whether the other person actually had ill intentions or not.

This tendency to assume that one “knows” what's going on within other people affects our actions greatly. The perspective I am now focusing on are the assumptions I have of other people's expectations for me: “who do others want me to be?” What would be the best course of action for me so that this situation with other people would have a positive outcome for me? Living through this question places a heavy burden on my shoulders (literally!) as whenever I interact with other people my actions are determined by what I believe I should be. This strain and the conflict/friction that occurs when I question this pattern and try to live otherwise is, I'm guessing, the reason I have been in intense physical pain for a while now with no help from external methods (exercise, stretching, massage).

So, I have recently been asking myself the question “who do I believe and perceive I should be (here)” or “who am I trying to be”. After observing myself in different situations I have so far found one common nominator: trying to be “good” / liked. I immediately associated this to my childhood where I have learned to try to be pleasing in school to be liked and to get good grades. The measure for “success” or “appearing likable” varies according to circumstances.

For example, today I had a small singing gig with some people from my choir on a very short notice. It was my first gig with this choir, and I took it very seriously as a “representation task”, knowing that we would be paid plenty of money for it, that our future gig invitations rely on how well we perform and that there would be many “important academic people” in the audience. I was very stiff and serious, wanting to appear professional even though we had had very little practice and I was unsure of the songs, and I noticed that I was projecting my self-demands on the other singers. I saw myself judging their laid-back attitudes, their “lack of ambition”, and even the ways they sat hunched and limp. I realized that I was afraid of “sinking with the boat”: that the audience would judge me along with the group no matter how hard I tried individually. I realized that imposing my self-standards on others is to distract my focus from myself – to accommodate my world to my demands instead of living within and as the world – and that I was causing my shoulder pain to get worse with the stiff way I was sitting.

Now, what is relevant here is who I believe and perceive “the audience” to be. After 20 years of performing in front of differing audiences I have come to define “the audience” as this faceless entity with the power to either appreciate what I perform (acceptance) or to resent it (rejection). I have defined “the audience” to have the power to define me, or more specifically, my self-worth. I have not realized to question the “power” of the audience and how I have handed it over.

Another point I'm seeing here is the fact that for me performing is a very selfish thing, even though I have done it in a group for 15 years. What matters is ME, my ego, my success, how I look, how I appear, it's always been underneath all the fancy words about teamwork. Today during that choir gig my anxiety arose from how it would make ME look bad if the gig didn't go well. I wanted the others to stop being careless because it would made me look bad, not because their carelessness has consequences on themselves and the choir as a whole. In other words, I was not focusing on the best of All but on my self-interest, which is why I was working "alone" instead of working as a group.

I'll continue from here with self-forgiveness.

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